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The Munificent Musings Of A Maniacal Mammal

A list of my personal top 25 favorite episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (my favorite Star Trek series). You can click each title to go to the Wikipedia page for the episode. Included are the trailers for each episode. And since I’m mentioning Deep Space Nine trailers, I find it to be a good excuse to link to the playlist of these FANTASTIC fan-made DS9 season trailers.

#1 – In The Pale Moonlight (6×19)

This is certainly one of the most notorious episodes of Trek, and is very commonly found at the top, or near the top, of many favorite episode lists. I clearly remember watching this episode when it originally debuted and absolutely loving it. I can, in fact, remember doing a little “golf clap” as the final captain’s log scene ended, I was so impressed. It’s a uniquely Deep Space Nine kind of episode in Trek canon. It is also the source of numerous memes in the Trek world (“It’s a fake!”, “I can live with it…”, etc). Like the best of Trek, it wrestles with a moral argument. Unlike most Trek, it actually embraces an ends-justify-the-means situation – so much so, that the entire fate of the alpha quadrant actually DOES get saved by the actions taken, and Captain Sisko DOES just live with what he did and the actions are never questioned or addressed again. I’m sure Gene Roddenberry would have recoiled at reading the script. While Gene was the cornerstone of Trek, his utopia approach did have its limitations. It’s certainly no coincidence that DS9 came shortly after Gene’s passing. The series would ultimately live and breath topics and questions that never would have gotten past Gene’s approach. But at its core, it still maintained itself as “Trek” to the core. Few episodes pushed that relationship more than this one does. What makes it all the more fascinating is that in this one, the ends kinda do justify the means, and the writers dare to try to get you to agree.

So I will learn to live with it. Because I can live with it. I can live with it.

#2 – Sacrifice Of Angels (6×6)

There are few Trek episodes in any of the series that have such a building pressure propelling the narrative forward as this one does. Not only does it feature one of the most dynamic battle sequences that the Roddenberry/Berman era ever attempted, but it also harnesses the serialized energy of the handful of episodes that build up to it marvelously. At the same time, it continues the many subplots actively moving forward from those previous episodes, touching on a number of historic precedents (Vichy France, etc). It’s just one of those examples of everything coming together and all the pieces falling into place very well. From the cast to the writers to the various production teams, everybody is firing on all cylinders. In the middle of everything that’s going on in this episode, it briefly pauses for one of my all-time favorite little bridge crew dialog exchanges in this “Charge Of The Light Brigade” moment.

A true victory is to make your enemies see they were wrong to oppose you in the first place. To force them to acknowledge your greatness!

#3 – Duet (1×19)

As an avid Trek viewer during the run of the series, I also vividly remember watching this episode. DS9 was a new series still in its first season, and still experiencing those growing pains that new shows usually do. As a huge fan of Michelle Forbes’ character of Ro Laren on TNG, I was disappointed at the time that she turned down becoming a regular on DS9, and had my doubts about Nana Visitor’s role of Kira. By the time DS9 ended, Kira would become what I consider to be the best developed character over the run of the series, having a genuine growth and through-line from the start of the series to the finish. This episode was the initial cornerstone of that character arc, first showing just how powerful of a character she could be. And while all of that is great, it is absolutely the stunning performance of guest actor Harris Yulin that kicks this episode up into a true level of greatness. It’s a career best for the actor. And to kick it up to yet another level, the script does a fine job exploring the topic of war criminals.

What you call genocide, I call a day’s work.

#4 – Trials And Tribble-ations (5×6)

Probably the most openly nostalgic episode that Trek ever did, it’s an essentially perfect example of how it’s done. As a celebration of Trek’s 30th anniversary, it couldn’t possibly be better. And as will be a bit of a theme in this list, it actually manages to pull off a lot of humor and make it work, which is remarkable for a show that is most well known for being the “dark” Trek series of its era. The cast is having a ball with the material. The production is spectacular, recreating the original enterprise with exacting precision. The VFX are remarkable for their era, and they still hold up to this day. The tone of the episodes is absolutely delightful, easily matching the playfulness of the original Trouble With Tribbles. You can’t help smiling all the way through this one, and it has a marvelous rewatchability.

Another glorious chapter in Klingon history. Tell me, do they still sing songs of The Great Tribble Hunt?

#5 – The Sound Of Her Voice (6×25)

While you’re likely to find the above episodes near the top of many favorite episode lists, this is one for which I have a particular fondness. It’s a simple episode with a great twist. But it’s the timing of the episode and how it lands in the overall story arc that makes it profound. For the first acts, it’s an incredibly simple ensemble character episode with a light tone and is a delight to watch. Then it takes the dark turn with the twist in the last act, which is great. But THEN, it takes that dark twist and adds a scene that is absolutely wonderful and so perfect in every way, both in and of itself and as part of the overall series arc at that time. It’s that final one-two punch of the twist and the scene that follows with the characters reflecting on it that really cements this episode as one of my all-time favorites. Also, I love how the promos for this episode have to artificially ramp up the drama, using most of the material completely wrong and out of context. 🙂

The war changed us – pulled us apart… I want my friends in my life, because someday we’re going to wake up and we’re going to find that someone is missing from this circle. On that day, we’re going to mourn, and we shouldn’t have to mourn alone.

#6 – What You Leave Behind (7×25 & 7×26)

Unlike other Trek series, The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine managed to nail their series finale episodes. They are very different finale episodes, though. Unlike TNG’s finale, which is a self-contained episode that does a wonderful bookend closing to the show and explores Captain Picard primarily, DS9’s finale is the ending chapter that covers a ton of running plots and also pivots a number of characters towards new futures and acts as a big transition and send-off. Deep Space Nine had many, MANY subplots and recurring characters. It had so much of that, in fact, that they couldn’t just have a finale episode. They ended up doing a 9-episode “Final Chapter” set of episodes, that were even promoted that way in syndication (which must have driven Paramount brass berzerk). This 2-part finale was chapter 9, capping off so many finishing plots. The biggest of those plots, of course, was the Dominion War. Having to do such a huge 9-episoode finale, the budget was clearly stretched to its limits. You can actively feel the writers and producers cutting every corner they can without sacrificing quality. I’m sure they would have loved to stage some bigger battle sequences in the taking of Cardassia, but they do manage to cut those corners with decent enough writing to still feel natural. But that’s really the only weakness the episode has, and is one they managed to still pull off OK. A favorite piece of this finale is the character farewell music montage, as is the finale scene at Vic’s and the closing pull-back shot of Kira and Jake at the window on the promenade.

You may win this war, commander, but I promise you, when it is over, you will have lost so many ships, so many lives, that your “victory” will taste as bitter as defeat.

#7 – The Visitor (4×3)

This is an episode that is often near the top of favorite episode lists by fans, deservingly so. It’s actually a fairly simple plot setup, that somehow is a variation on the ol’ time travel plot that I can’t recall anybody having done before. Not only is it a well written script, but it is performed by an excellent cast, most notably Trek veteran character actor, Tony Todd as an older Jake Sisko. One of the fun little bits of trivia about this episode is that Rachel Robinson portrays Melanie, the woman that older Jake tells his story to. Robinson is the daughter of actor Andrew J. Robinson, who portrays Garak. While the story is well crafted, the icing on the cake is where it falls in the run of the show, as the character of Jake is morphing from the early intentions to the more mature (and non-Starfleet) version of himself, with him breaking out of his father’s shadow. So, it’s kinda perfect timing for this story to have been told in the run of the series. Regardless, this is one of those examples of Trek really nailing what it set out to do in an episode. The final act is particularly impressive.

For you, and for the boy that I was. He needs you more than you know. Don’t you see? We’re going to get a second… chance.

#8 – The Siege Of AR-558 (7×8)

For as big-budget and top-shelf a production as the Star Trek series were during this era, it’s no big secret that doing big scale scenes and stories anywhere other than standing sets was rarely possible. As such, despite staging a fantastic Dominion War arc across multiple seasons of the show, it was quite rare to have large production battle scenes and episodes. For the occasions they would attempt it, they usually had a specific motivation outside of just a “cool battle episode”. This is no exception, as it explores the day-to-day grind of warfare, and the casual and random violence involved. The guest cast is top notch (including no less than Bill Mumy). While it’s stuck on typical Trek soundstage sets, it does a decent job at pulling off everything it set out to do. Perhaps the generic quality of the soundstage set even enhances the point of the episode. “Just another minor sustained fight in another minor location to support the bigger picture.” The entire main cast is excellent in this, but the talented Aaron Eisenberg is great, Avery Brooks really hammers his scenes home very well, and Nicole De Boer starts to really hit her stride as Ezri.

There’s only one order, Lieutenant. We hold.

#9 – The Dogs Of War (7×24)

Yeah, a number of episodes from the series’ 9-episode “Final Chapter” arc that closed out the end of the series are featured on this list. That’s because they’re all great. This one is a mix of dark despair and light-hearted fun. On the war front, Kira’s resistance movement with Damar & Garak (a personal favorite running plot) hits a low point. To offset it all, there’s a delightful and silly Ferengi plot, which closes out those running story arcs. We also get introduced to the Sao Paulo, the replacement to The Defiant. Unfortunately, with only a couple episodes of the series left, the Sao Paulo plot is rushed, with it just being renamed The Defiant and moving along. What really makes this episode work is Kira, Damar & Garak in a room together. Like so many characters in this series, putting them together produces yet another brilliant new dynamic. Their grim banter is well written, but the three cast members just nail it so perfectly.

I won’t preside over the demise of Ferengi civilization! The line has to be drawn here! This far, and no further!

#10 – Call To Arms (5×26)

While The Best Of Both Worlds is a famous Star Trek season cliffhanger, I think this is my favorite Trek season cliffhanger. Thankfully, the episode had lasting repercussions, with the next season starting with a half dozen episodes directly dealing with the fallout (and plots it kicked off running considerably longer). From the mining of the wormhole to the political machinations leading to the abandoning of the station, this episode has a solid pressure build, right up to the great cliffhanger ending. From here forward, The Dominion War is now front and center.

When the Klingons attacked the station, Gul Dukat and I were fighting side by side. At one point, he turned his back to me, and I must admit that, for a moment, he made a very tempting target.

#11 – The Way Of The Warrior (4×1 & 4×2)

In the grand scheme of things, the big Klingon conflict was a bit of a side note. However, it gave the series some good things. The most obvious of those was adding Worf to the series. I’ll admit that despite being a fan of Worf, at the time, it felt like little more than a ratings push. That’s probably because it kinda was. However, the DS9 writers figured out how to run with it and Worf became even better on DS9 than he was on TNG. Part of that is probably due to having people like Ronald D. Moore as a key writer on DS9, who was particularly good at writing for Klingons. Part of that was also because DS9 could do serialized things with Worf and the Klingons that wasn’t possible on TNG. On the subject of running Klingon plots, another thing this episode did was to initially set up a nice example of changeling infiltration, which would pay off later. Of course, another great thing about this episode is the awesome battle sequences, which were certainly the most ambitious that the franchise had done up to that point, and was a particularly cool way to kick off the new season.

Ah, but I dealt them several cutting remarks which, no doubt, did severe damage to their egos.

#12 – Far Beyond The Stars (6×13)

When Trek shows go back to the 20th century, the initial instinct is to cringe. Thankfully, despite how wrong this one could have gone, it totally works. Much of that is thanks to the cast, with many of them getting to shed their make-up, all playing alternate characters. Avery Brooks’ direction is solid and his performance is over-the-top in a great way that he was always so uniquely good at pulling off. Despite being a groundbreaking series in terms of racial diversity for its time, this is one of the very few times that DS9 ever directly dealt with racial discrimination and issues. It works really well, as it gives it an interesting, retro sci-fi approach. This also sets up future Benny Russell mentions, playing with the idea that the entire series is just part of Benny’s imagination.

You can deny me all you want but you can’t deny Ben Sisko – He exists!

#13 – Take Me Out To The Holosuite (7×4)

This is just a delightful episode. It’s full of wonderful character moments and has some great pieces of dialog. The basic idea is brilliantly simple, and it all falls into place with charming ease. Amidst chaotic and dark ongoing plotlines, such as the obvious Dominion War, this is a fun breath of fresh air.

Death to the opposition!

#14 – Extreme Measures (7×23)

This is something of a divisive episode when it comes to fans. Part of the problem is its placement in the series, as the third-to-last episode. With the 9-episode “Final Chapter” series of episodes cranking along, this is definitely a tangent episode as part of that overall arc. I happen to love this episode (as evident in my including it in this list, obviously), and I think its tangential nature kinda helps it work. It also explores a couple great ongoing series components. One of them is the unlikely and great pairing of O’Brien and Bashir. This is arguably their best episode as a duo, and the actors are at the top of their game with it. The other great thing the episode has going for it is the recurring Section 31 plot (which would later be terribly misused by Discovery)., via the wonderful character of Sloan, played perfectly by the excellent William Sadler.

I misread you. I thought you were just a misguided idealist. But you’re a dangerous man. People like you would destroy the Federation if given a chance. Fortunately, there are people like me who will die to protect it.

#15 – The Die Is Cast (3×21)

A great preamble to the Dominion War, with everything kind of up in the air. This is a very “DS9” type episode, which has numerous plot threads existing in the gray area. The fallout from the events of this episode will reverberate for the rest of the series. One of the highlights is the dynamic between Garak and Odo, which is highly atypical, and the actors really manage to make it work in a very “I understand why you did it” kind of way. In the end, the title of the episode says it all quite nicely.

If you pull a stunt like that again, I’ll court martial you… or I’ll promote you. Either way you’ll be in a lot of trouble.

#16 – Tacking Into The Wind (7×22)

This episode features a moment I can’t believe they actually did. It’s very spoilery, but it involves Gowron. That moment by itself makes this a great episode, but the rest of it is also excellent. The Dominion War is thundering on, with Kira’s great running thread advising the resistance on Cardassia getting more interesting. It also features this perfect scene. Also, this is another episode with a perfect title.

He was my friend. But his Cardassia is dead and it won’t be coming back.

#17 – A Time To Stand (6×1)

I like the fact that they decided to kinda let the break between seasons play out off screen, joining things with the war “already in progress”. And it kicks in to launch season 6 with some cool stuff. When it first aired, one of the things I most enjoyed in watching it was the fact that they had essentially made Garak an unofficial part of the crew, joining the mission behind enemy lines. Overall, a great start to the arc of episodes with the station in Dominion hands. The start of the “Vichy France” type subplot back on the station also works well.

I was studying some star charts for Captain Sisko during the last assault, when I had a sudden, and rather violent, encounter with a bulkhead.

#18 – Improbable Cause (3×20)

While technically a part 1 to The Die Is Cast (#15 on this list), this episode stands very well on its own. Not surprisingly, an episode that focuses heavily on Garak turns out great. And as always, Andrew J. Robinson proves himself as one of the greatest assets of the series portraying the character.

The truth is usually just an excuse for a lack of imagination.

#19 – The Search (3×1 & 3×2)

A lot happens in this 2-part season opener, including the debut of The Defiant (yay!). Major series plot points are also explored and revealed, including Odo’s origins and the first solid info about The Dominion. And in typical DS9 style, it takes a dark twist. The cast is firing on all thrusters at this point, and the production is nailing it. This is the first episode to air post-TNG, where DS9 is suddenly the most experienced Trek production (never mind the parallel launch of a certain other, inferior Trek series).

You see… I have a dream. A dream that one day all people: Human, Jem’Hadar, Ferengi, Cardassians… stand together in peace… around my dabo tables.

#20 – By Inferno’s Light (5×15)

Andrew J. Robinson’s portray of Garak is always spot-on perfect. Always. In this, he gets yet another dimension to add to the mix, and as always, he nails it. And Worf gets to be, well… Worf. Meanwhile, back at the station, we have another key moment of the Dominion War, with everybody realizing they can’t trust anybody and that the Dominion is trickier than they think. It’s also an interesting twist for the viewers.

Tell our friends out there to stand down. Armageddon will have to wait for another day.

#21 – Rocks And Shoals (6×2)

This is a great exploration of the relationship between the Vorta and the Jem’Hadar, not to mention the whole ketracel-white aspect of the Jem”Hadar. And hey, a decent amount of location shooting helps add to things. There’s also some fun scenes with characters who don’t get to share scenes together often enough (such as the great stuff between Garak and Nog).

Yeah, I tore my pants. I guess… I guess I’m really in trouble now!

#22 – Emissary (1×1 & 1×2)

All things being equal, this is actually a pretty solid pilot episode. DS9 was doing a number of new things, not least of which is carving out its own identity against stalwart The Next Generation. Director David Carson and the various production teams find a way to give the series its own style while at the same time keeping it clearly in the Trek universe. Like other Trek fans at the time, I was both excited and hesitant at this new series. After this solid pilot, I had hopes that it was going to be good. Thankfully, it would get better from there.

I love the Bajorans. Such a deeply spiritual culture, but they make a dreadful ale. Never trust ale from a god-fearing people, or a Starfleet commander that has one of your relatives in jail.

#23 – Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges (7×16)

This is a fun espionage episode that puts Bashir in the middle of some great Section 31 manipulation. The great Williams Sadler does another excellent guest performance as Sloan. The pettiness between the Romulans and the Klingons is also fun.

Let’s make a deal, doctor. I’ll spare you the ‘ends justify the means’ speech and you spare me the ‘we must do what’s right’ speech. You and I are not going to see eye to eye on this subject, so I suggest we stop discussing it.

#24 – Little Green Men (4×8)

This is such a silly episode. Everybody making it, both in front of and behind the cameras, clearly knows this. As such, it’s a fun little romp, with lots of fun Ferengi humor as well as some good fish-out-of-water humor. As long as you aren’t watching it to be hypercritical, this one has plenty of fun, entertaining material.

We’re helpless! We’re harmless! We just want to sell you things!

#25 – Field Of Fire (7×13)

This is a great little murder mystery that does a nice job exploring Ezri as she continues to get used to being a joined Trill, putting her psychotic former host Joran to good use. It also features a weapon that is a fun idea (don’t think about it in too much detail, or you’ll wonder why they don’t use techniques like this in many other ways). It’s one of those episodes that isn’t likely on too many best episode lists, but I have a big soft spot for this one.

How can anyone be so happy with such unattractive children?

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